Development, application, and sensitivity analysis of a water quality index for drinking water management in small systems

Environ Monit Assess. 2015 Nov;187(11):685. doi: 10.1007/s10661-015-4908-5. Epub 2015 Oct 11.


The aim of this study was to produce a drinking water assessment tool for operators of small distribution systems. A drinking water quality index (DWQI) was developed and applied to small systems based on the water quality index of the Canadian Council of Ministers of Environment. The drinking water quality index was adapted to specific needs by creating four drinking water quality scenarios. First, the temporal and spatial dimensions of drinking water quality variability were taken into account. The DWQI was designed to express global drinking water quality according to different monitoring frequencies. Daily, monthly, and seasonal assessment was also considered. With the data made available, it was possible to use the index as a spatial monitoring tool and express water quality in different points in the distribution system. Moreover, adjustments were made to prioritize the type of contaminant to monitor. For instance, monitoring contaminants with acute health effects led to a scenario based on daily measures, including easily accessible and affordable water quality parameters. On the other hand, contaminants with chronic effects, especially disinfection by-products, were considered in a seasonal monitoring scenario where disinfection by-product reference values were redefined according to their seasonal variability. A sensitivity analysis was also carried out to validate the index. Globally, the DWQI developed is adapted to the needs of small systems. In fact, expressing drinking water quality using the DWQI contributes to the identification of problematic periods and segments in the distribution system. Further work may include this index in the development of a customized decision-making tool for small-system operators and managers.

Keywords: CCME water quality index; Drinking water quality index; Sensitivity analysis; Small systems; Spatio-temporal variability.

MeSH terms

  • Canada
  • Disinfection
  • Drinking Water / chemistry*
  • Water Purification / standards
  • Water Quality*


  • Drinking Water